New coworkers mistake my introverted nature for an ‘attitude’

screenshot 2023 01 12 at 7.08.49 pm
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Dear Koren,

I started a new job a few months ago and I was happy to get this position as my old job didn’t pay well and wasn’t challenging. Now I get more money and the job description is more along my training. I never worked with so many other women before and it seem like they have their cliques and groups and I don’t seem to fit in personality wise. I am usually very quiet and prefer to read or go pay my bills during my lunch break. Now I’m hearing that they think I have an attitude problem but that’s not fair. I just don’t know if I am supposed to initiate non-work-related conversations or what it is they want me to do. I’m the new one so shouldn’t they be making the effort to welcome me?

New introvert in a large office

Dear Writer,

I like how you signed your email – “new introvert in a large office”. Listen, I’m a people-loving introvert and I think I understand how you are feeling. If I moved to a new office, I would probably sit tight for a while and observe the dynamics before just jumping in and, during that time it is likely some people might form opinions.

First and foremost, congratulations on your new job. With your increased pay and more relevant duties, I can imagine you are excited and happy. Do not let anyone or anything steal your joy. Revel in this new thing for a while before you start taking on any drama.

Now, be your natural and genuine self as much as possible. Everybody will not understand you and no matter what your personality or way of doing things, you will not please everybody. And it’s funny that you mention that you work with a lot of women – I think women try to read others more than men who tend to just see what they see and take things or persons as they come.

While I encourage you to be natural and genuine, I also want you to consider that sometimes in public spaces we can have a level of courtesy. In our homes we can be free to be who we want and do what we want (if we live alone), but in a workplace setting there is an expectation of some kind of socialisation. I would imagine you already do the basic courtesies such as greeting people when you enter a room, or asking “how was your weekend” and simple things like that.

Smiling at people goes a long way. Some of us have a naturally dry-looking resting face, especially when we are concentrating and that makes us look annoyed when we are really not. Don’t force a face set, but at least smile at people when they are addressing you.

You can initiate some conversations like “what are some good lunch spots around here” or “what are some of the things that are celebrated here”, “is there a birthday or fitness club” or other things like that. Occasionally bringing in a pack of mints or candy is also a nice gesture that doesn’t require too much of you. You can even say, “ladies, I usually have lunch at my desk and catch up on my reading, but call me if you need me”.

I agree that as the newcomer, they should be welcoming, but perception is a funny thing and quietness can be misinterpreted as being standoffish. So just occasionally initiate some conversations, occasionally pass around some candy, maybe once a month you can sit with them in the lunch room and be as pleasant as you can generally. Pretty soon they will understand that you are the quiet one, but also approachable.

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